Broadband vanlife: a family-run fiber company that lives on the road

  • The TIA estimates over 200,000 broadband job openings are needed to build and maintain the broadband networks throughout and following the BEAD program.

  • There are many unsung heroes helping bring broadband to underserved and unserved communities

  • A sprinkler-installer turned fiber splicer lives the #vanlife with his family, helping to deliver broadband across the country

Eight years ago, while working as a sprinkler system installer, Adam Roy had never heard of fiber optics. Today, the technology supports his entire family to live on the road.

Yet unlike your prototypical digital nomad, Roy's job isn't remote. Rather, it's what makes remote life possible in the first place. With his wife, Lauren, the Roys run a fiber subcontracting company, enabling the whole family to live in a mobile camper full time — moving with the work and the seasons.

From sprinklers to splicing: a family-run fiber company 

When a buddy first asked Roy if he wanted to splice fiber, he replied, “I have no idea what that is.”

But at the time, he was sweating like the sprinklers he installed in the Georgia heat, and he wasn't against learning new things — so he gave it a try. For seven years, he worked as an hourly employee, getting his feet wet “in all aspects of running fiber."

Adam Roy trailer
The Roy family's mobile home.  (Source: Adam Roy)

He loved the work, but over time, Roy and his wife found themselves both burned out on their day-to-day grind. So, they traded in their home for the open road and their nine-to-five jobs for more time with their kids.  

Originally, they set out with only a break in mind — both planning to eventually return to hourly work.

“We just enjoyed the mobility so much," said Roy. "And still tired of that nine-to-five grind, we threw around the idea, ‘Why don't we start our own company and see if we can get into subcontracting?’”   

And so Upstream Telecommunications was born. “It just took off from there."    

While Roy handles the fiber work itself, Lauren operates the business. He gives endless credit to her ability to run the books — the taxes and benefits for the family — while also homeschooling their children. His son already knows how to splice fiber and loves it.

Bouncing between Michigan and Georgia, they set their own schedules and migrate with the work and the weather.  

“You see so many things, form these memories with your family that you wouldn’t get anywhere else just working a regular hourly job staying in the same place,” Roy gushed.

Ed. Note: The challenges around the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grant money may grab headlines, but rolling out broadband to underserved and unserved populations in the U.S. relies on a dwindling pool of skilled workers. This talent shortage could tap the breaks on broadband delivery as the gap surpasses 200,000 jobs.

Broadband Nation, an initiative by TIA and Fierce Network, is shining the spotlight on the lives of broadband workers — from fiber splicers to tower climbers to customer service agents — in an effort to raise awareness around their important work and cultivate an honest interest in the careers of the industry.  

Read more about Roy's story and other folks working in the broadband industry at the Broadband Nation Learning Center. Broadband Nation also features a jobs board and free training courses.